After telecom operators, DTH firms are now demanding to bring OTT players under regulatory framework of the proposed Broadcasting Bill. DTH operators, including Airtel and Tata Play have written to the telecom regulator, saying that OTT players provide content without any regulatory overview while DTH operators have to pay licence fees. A similar demand was made earlier by telecom operators to bring OTT players under the purview of the Telecom Bill.

“Platforms like OTTs and DD Free Dish provide the same content, as provided by DTH operators to subscribers with no commensurate obligations of any kind. This is the result of the same content either being made available for free [on DD Free to Air] or provided on the same screen through a broadband pipe at unregulated prices [on OTT platforms]. This is against the basic premise of TRAI’s endeavor to have a balanced regulatory framework.,” said Airtel in a letter to TRAI.

Airtel said this incentivises customer-switching, thereby putting revenue pressure on DTH operators who have no other option but charge subscribers. “There’s OTT at the top of the pyramid, and there’s DD Free Dish at the bottom. In the middle, private DTH services are getting squeezed. This entirely unequal, discriminatory situation has created several regulatory loopholes/lacunae that are easily exploited by such unregulated players. While on one hand these players are benefiting from these regulatory gaps as they don’t fall under the ambit of the TRAI, on the other, it has brought the fully regulated DTH industry on the verge of almost collapse,” Airtel added.

Tata Play said the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) has notified the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (IT Rules, 2021) and amendments thereto, whereby strict compliance obligations have been placed on earlier unregulated OTT platforms such as social-media platforms and social-media intermediaries. Similarly, OTT Platforms distributing content in competition with the DTH industry, should be brought under the same regulatory regime as the DTH sector

‘level-playing field’

“OTT Platforms are conducting a similar and substitutable function as of the Licensed and Registered DPOs. However, such OTT platforms are not governed by TRAI regulations. The regulatory imbalances and pricing structure relating to OTT platforms need to be addressed in the National Broadcasting Policy for a level-playing field in the market. Regulating OTT platforms will promote healthy market competition as it will ensure that all platforms provide the best services to the subscribers at best prices,” said Tata Play in its submission to the TRAI, which is carrying out a consultation process for the proposed broadcasting policy.

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